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Alexander: Derron Smith’s productive homecoming

By in Press Enterprise on July 15, 2017

By Jim Alexander

BANNING — It is a rite of summer, the professional returning home — and bringing along a few of his buddies — to teach the kids how it’s done.

Derron Smith, who went from Banning High to Fresno State to the Cincinnati Bengals, surveyed the scene Saturday morning: His free football camp, at his alma mater, with 250 or so grade schoolers participating in football drills (and also discovering that on a hot morning it’s good to hydrate, but it’s even more fun to squirt water at the other kids).

It was all a reminder to Smith: No matter where you end up, home will always be special.

Even if it does change.

“This is where I grew up,” he said. “This is the high school I went to. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play on this nice field they’ve got now. I played at Nicolet (Middle School) Field.”

Banning’s spiffy facility opened in the spring of 2011. Smith, a football/basketball standout at Banning, played his last down as a Bronco in 2009 and then left for Fresno State, where he earned three straight first-team All-Mountain West selections in four seasons (plus an injury redshirt year) as a safety.

That led him to Cincinnati, as a sixth-round pick in 2015. And now, just a couple of weeks away from his third NFL training camp, he was paying things forward.

Maybe the return of the hometown hero just means more in a place like Banning, a town of around 30,000 whose families in many cases have lived there for decades and have sent succeeding generations of kids to the only high school in town.

“To be able to give back to a small town like this makes it even better,” Smith said. “A lot of the kids know each […]    

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